Home » Predicting the 2022 Oscars: Festival Season and the Rise of ‘Dune’

Predicting the 2022 Oscars: Festival Season and the Rise of ‘Dune’

by Diego Andaluz
A collage of Timothée Chalamet in DUNE, Kristen Stewart in SPENCER, and Benedict Cumberbatch in THE POWER OF THE DOG, all films that rank high in our list of predictions for the 2022 Oscars.

The staple of the awards season, the Academy Awards (commonly known as the Oscars) bring with them a flurry of films hoping to strike gold. Following our very first early wave of predictions for the 2022 Oscars, Awards Editor Diego Andaluz is back with freshly updated thoughts and insights. As numerous film festivals, first looks, trailers, and major delays are starting to come into play, there couldn’t be a better time to once again bring the Oscars into conversation. Follow along in his second report of the season to get a leg up on your own Oscar predictions and know what likely contenders you won’t want to miss in the upcoming months.

Best Picture

Editor’s Picks:

  1. Belfast (Focus Features)
  2. Don’t Look Up (Netflix)
  3. West Side Story (20th Century Studios)
  4. Nightmare Alley (Searchlight)
  5. Licorice Pizza (MGM/UA)
  6. The Power of The Dog (Netflix)
  7. Dune (Warner Brothers)
  8. King Richard (Warner Brothers)
  9. Spencer (Neon)
  10. House of Gucci (MGM/UA)

Next In Line: 

  • Being The Ricardos (Amazon)
  • The Hand of God (Netflix)
  • The French Dispatch (Searchlight)
  • The Humans (A24)
  • Blue Bayou (Focus Features)
  • C’mon C’mon (A24)
  • Parallel Mothers (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Tick Tick Boom (Netflix)
  • Coda (Apple)
  • The Tragedy of Macbeth (A24/Apple)
  • Mass (Bleecker Street)
  • Eternals (Disney) 

In The Race: The Eyes of Tammy Faye, The Last Duel, Flee, Cyrano, The Card Counter, A Hero, Cry Macho, Red Rocket, The Survivor, Last Night In Soho, Official Competition, A Hero. 

Still far off from the thick of the season, recent developments in the race have centered around the announcements of festival premieres, delays, release dates, and much more. Yet, regardless of all these updates, Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up still seems to be a major contender. As touched upon in our previous report, “the film contains a bold narrative that presents itself as an allegory for virtually every major social issue in the past political cycle (COVID, Climate Change, Corporate interference, and more), McKay’s biting social critique holds a urgent relevancy that can be only comparable to if The Big Short had released the year after the economic collapse.”

While its satirical nature could be a source of doubt, the fact that we’re seeing an ongoing streak of more idiosyncratic films that cover relevant issues (such as Nomadland, Parasite, The Shape of Water, and Moonlight) triumphing over traditional awards fare, along with the Academy’s affinity for McKay and a Christmas release date that puts it front and center as one of Netflix’s heavy hitters (remember, Netflix releases tend to have shorter lifespans, so the later a film peaks, the better), results in a film that could take the crown at the end of the night.

Another major Netflix-backed competitor that has seen its chances rise with the recent lineup reveals for Venice, TIFF, and NYFF, The Power of the Dog currently stands as the only major film to participate in four of the big fall festivals. Joining the ranks of surefire contenders such as Nomadland, Joker, and Netflix’s own Roma and Marriage Story, if it is more accessible than its source material, director Jane Campion’s latest film is sure to garner a wealth of buzz to secure a nomination (and an overall large presence in regards to other awards) but may fall short of a win due to its early peak. 

Festival debuts and reactions have created quite a few shakeups for the rest of our list. Following its Cannes premiere, The French Dispatch moves out of the top ten for the first time here. Despite favorable reviews, it’s lack of a solid narrative throughline hurts its chances to make it in like The Grand Budapest Hotel did seven years ago. With Searchlight having a larger contender in Nightmare Alley on their hands, expect The French Dispatch to nab a few technicals and be right on the cusp of a Best Picture nomination yet fall short by being trumped by other films with more accessible narratives.

Another casualty of the festival circuit looks to be Mass as well. While we had originally listed it as being on the quick road to a nomination if campaigned well, the lack of festival appearances and poor category placement (all four main performers are set to campaign as supporting roles) may spell the end of the line for what deserves to be known as one of the best films of the year. Additionally, sources tell us that Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth is far more divisive than previously thought, so it’s chances for the top prize have shrunk since our first report.

Elsewhere, Spencer’s emergence as another strong festival runner boosts its chances and lands in our top ten for the first time. With what seems to be a powerful central performance backed by Pablo Larrain’s trademark direction, it falls in line with the type of stylish arthouse biopic that Jackie was. Now, Jackie did miss out on a nomination in 2017, but in the current era where riskier prestige films have risen to the top and secured nominations (such as The Favourite and Vice), Spencer could make its mark. If campaigned well enough, Kristen Stewart’s transformative outing as Princess Diana can easily get her a Best Actress nomination. After all, the impressive distributors at NEON have proved to expertly carry somewhat unconventional picks to the finish line (eg. Parasite). With the strong festival presence in tow, Spencer could very well hear its name called on nomination morning. 

Some dramatic turn of events in the battles between the two dueling musicals and sci-fi blockbusters that were mentioned in our previous report have also resulted in significant changes. West Side Story stands strong and has moved up the ranks as In The Heights’ already lackluster chances were diminished after the disappearance of next year’s Golden Globes, not to mention some notable mainstream controversy and its timid performance at the box office. Its weak chances could have been bolstered by its crowd-pleasing narrative, but all of the stated factors have basically eradicated its shot, to the point that Lin Manuel Miranda’s other major film (Tick, Tick, Boom) has emerged as the secondary musical challenger (albeit still a weak one compared to West Side Story). 

Likewise, the lack of Globes and lessened importance of box office earnings have diminished Eternals‘ chances for a nomination. We were previously banking on its relatively fresh spin of the comic-book genre to be paired with an industry-revitalizing box office narrative that would have thrusted the film to the level of populist Oscar nominees like Black Panther, Avatar, and The Lord of The Rings, though recent developments in the ongoing pandemic – plus a strong festival push for Dune – have bumped it down a few notches with Dune shooting up to the top ten.

Recently, we’ve heard that studio executives are extremely confident in the awards potential of Dune and plan to mount an impressive campaign that pushes it hard in all major categories. Going even further, one source tells us that the way the film employs its size and scope has not been seen on the big screen since Avatar in 2009 (which won eleven awards on Oscar night). With these tidbits, the Globes cancellation, and it’s strong festival presence boosted by a Venice premiere (which the studio has used as a launchpad for their last two major contenders), it seems as if Dune is Warner Bros.’ awards priority and could claim a populist best picture slot. 

Where films like Canterbury Glass, Blonde, and The Whale have been confirmed as 2022 releases, new runners that could very well put up a fight have emerged in their places. Focusing on the incomparable Williams family of professional Tennis, King Richard’s biopic format in a year that lacks strong competitors of its nature, along with the already-impressive narrative forming for Will Smith’s win, may launch it into top-tier contention. Meanwhile, if The Tragedy of Macbeth falters, the recently released feel good touch of CODA could become Apple’s primary candidate and result in a surprise crowd-pleaser that many in the academy would love to highlight.

Although, be on the lookout for a strong contender in Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast. The project has been met with an early wave of buzz that (along with the fact that it will be Focus Features’ first priority) paint it to be a touchingly personal and crowd-pleasing piece. Having just screened at Telluride and TIFF, Belfast could go all the way. With foreign language films breaking glass ceilings left and right under a more progressive Academy, Netflix’s The Hand of God could also become a major player with a filmmaking focused narrative that has connected with voters in years past. 

All things considered, this highly competitive season is sure to result in some great races and shocking turns, so read on for our full updated predictions on the other major categories!

Best Actor

Editor’s Picks:

  1. Will Smith (King Richard)
  2. Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of The Dog)
  3. Bradley Cooper (Nightmare Alley)
  4. Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth)
  5. Joaquín Phoenix (C’mon C’mon)

NEXT IN LINE: Adam Driver (House of Gucci/The Last Duel), Clifton Collins Jr (Jockey), Peter Dinklage (Cyrano), Leonardo Di Caprio (Don’t Look Up), Andrew Garfield (The Eyes of Tammy Faye), Steven Yeun (The Humans), Timothee Chalamet (Dune), Javier Bardem (Being The Ricardos)

Best Actress

Editor’s Picks:

  1. Kristen Stewart (Spencer)
  2. Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye)
  3. Jennifer Hudson (Respect) 
  4. Frances McDormand (The Tragedy of Macbeth)
  5. Rachel Zegler (West Side Story)

NEXT IN LINE: Lady Gaga (House of Gucci), Cate Blanchett (Nightmare Alley), Nicole Kidman (Being The Ricardos), Jennifer Lawrence (Don’t Look Up),

Best Supporting Actress

Editor’s Picks:

  1. Kirsten Dunst (The Power of Dog)
  2. Caitriona Balfe (Belfast)
  3. Ariana DeBose (West Side Story)
  4. Toni Collette (Nightmare Alley)
  5. Judi Dench (Belfast)

NEXT IN LINE: Jayne Houdyshell (The Humans), Marlee Matlin (CODA), Sally Hawkins (Spencer), Anne Dowd (Mass), Meryl Streep (Don’t Look Up), Judi Dench (Belfast), Jodie Comer (The Last Duel), Cate Blanchett (Nightmare Alley), Glenn Close (Swan Song), Rebecca Ferguson (Dune), Anya Taylor Joy (Last Night In Soho)

Best Supporting Actor

Editor’s Picks:

  1. Bradley Cooper (Licorice Pizza)
  2. Jesse Plemons (The Power of the Dog)
  3. Richard Jenkins (Nightmare Alley) 
  4. Jaimie Dornan (Belfast)
  5. Jason Issacs (Mass)

NEXT IN LINE: J.K. Simmons (Being The Ricardos), Ciarán Hinds (Belfast) Jared Leto (House of Gucci), Al Pacino (House of Gucci), Jack Farthing (Spencer), Corey Hawkins (The Tragedy of Macbeth), Brandan Gleason (The Tragedy of Macbeth)

Best Director

Editor’s Picks:

  1. Guillermo Del Toro (Nightmare Alley)
  2. Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza)
  3. Kenneth Branagh (Belfast)
  4. Adam McKay (Don’t Look Up)
  5. Denis Villeneuve (Dune)

NEXT IN LINE: Jane Campion (The Power of The Dog), Paolo Sorrentino (The Hand of God), Asghar Farhadi (A Hero), Wes Anderson (The French Dispatch), Joel Coen (The Tragedy of Macbeth), Pablo Larrain (Spencer), Steven Speilberg (West Side Story), Chloe Zhao (Eternals), Benjamin Cleary (Swan Song), 

Additional Categories

Original Screenplay:

1. Don’t Look Up 
2. Licorice Pizza
3. Being The Ricardos
4. Belfast
5. C’mon C’mon

Adapted Screenplay:

1. The Power of The Dog
2. Nightmare Alley
3. The Humans 
4. Dune

Animated Feature:

1. Luca
2. Flee
3. The Mitchells vs The Machines
4. Encanto
5. Vivo

Production Design

1. The French Dispatch
2. Nightmare Alley
3. Licorice Pizza
4. West Side Story 
5. Dune

Costume Design

1. Cruella
2. Spencer
3. House of Gucci
4. The French Dispatch
5. Belfast


1. The French Dispatch
2. Belfast
3. Dune
4. Spencer
5. The Power of The Dog


1. Don’t Look Up
2. Licorice Pizza
3. Nightmare Alley
4. The Power of The Dog
5. West Side Story


1. Dune
2. Eternals
3. The Matrix 4
4. Spider-Man: No Way Home
5. The Suicide Squad

Makeup and Hairstyling

1. House of Gucci
2. Dune
3. The Eyes of Tammy Faye
4. The Suicide Squad
5. Being The Ricardos 


1. Dune
2. A Quiet Place: Part II
3. Eternals
4. The Matrix 4
5. West Side Story

Best Original Score 

1. Dune 
2. The French Dispatch
3. Spencer
4. Nightmare Alley
5. The Power of The Dog

The Final Award Winners of 2021:

Follow Awards Editor Diego Andaluz on Twitter: @thediegoandaluz

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